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Where should your vote go?

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Holly Edwards-Smith, Reporter

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In May this year there will be a federal election. If you are an Australian citizen over the age of 18, you must vote to avoid a nasty fine. Not only do you have to vote but you should want to vote and (as cringy as it sounds) use it to make the changes YOU want. If you don’t know much about Australian politics or how to vote and you’d like a crash course check out ‘Do you know enough to vote?’.

Know enough about the political system? Perfect, let’s unpack Australia’s political parties. According to the Australian Electoral Commission, there are 51 registered parties. This article would be way too long if we discussed them all, however, if you are interested you can check out the full list.

Focusing on the main parties, it is likely that you will have heard something about each of them. For better or for worse, politics is spoken about a lot in Australia which brings forth a lot of differing opinions and ways we can express our opinions. (See Pauline Hanson wearing a Niqab in parliament.)

It is important to mention here that the Liberal Party and the National Party formed a coalition. A coalition is a union and according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary can be defined as ‘a temporary alliance of distinct parties, persons, or states for joint action,’ this definition best describes political coalitions.

The benefits? Having a coalition means that the larger party (Liberals) gain the votes of the Nationals when it comes to deciding who is our PM. This gives them more of an opportunity to get into power. The Nationals also get benefits if the Liberals are elected; as a smaller party, the support of the Liberals means policies the Nationals put forward are more likely to be passed. The National’s leader also becomes the deputy PM if the coaltion wins the majority of seats.

Due to this coalition, Australia is often regarded as a two-party system with Labor the main opponent to the Lib-Nat coalition. Although the Greens are becoming a middle-sized force, along with One Nation, and there are microparties like the Pirate Party Australia, Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party and Involuntary Medication Objectors Party.

Some parties ‘vote down party lines’ meaning elected members of parliament must vote in a way previously determined by their party. This is true for everything except when it involves life and death. In this case, members of parliament can go to a conscience vote. This means they are no longer required to vote as their party would but how they as an individual feel.

Now to describing the parties and their positions. In the right corner we have the Liberals and National Party and in the left corner, there is Labor and the Greens. Now not only was that a wrestling reference because these parties do go head to head, but it refers to what we call the political spectrum. This spectrum places the parties on a line dependent on their views. However, they are called wings (not corners) and it isn’t left vs right but more party vs party.

We hear it a lot. Left and right wing. Conservative and progressive. What do they really mean?

The more central the views, the less radical and more neutral they are. The Greens are further left than Labor which sits more central. These parties are socially progressive with their views because they don’t mind changes to the way things are done. While the Liberals and the Nationals are right-winged socially conservative and like things to stay the way they are.

To add a layer of confusion though, the right wing parties are theoretically supposed to be economically progressive (hence the name Liberal) and support giving businesses lots of freedom and keeping government departments small, while the lefties support workers and think that government departments should be larger so governments can provide more services to more people.

Travelling from left to right along the spectrum here’s what the parties say:

Greens
The Greens began as the United Tasmania Group in 1972 protesting the damning of the Gordon River. They began as a group focused on the environment and now describe themselves as “a political party based on four key principles: ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy, social justice and peace and non-violence.” Their platform is based on a more progressive stance for social issues compared to many of the other parties, leading to their rise in their popularity in recent years.

Their current policies include:
-protecting our environment
-Public ownership, not privatisation
-Renewable economy and climate change
-Jobs and training for the future
For a more in-depth look head to their website.

Labor
Labor tends to focus on social welfare, equality and egalitarianism (all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities). Originally Labor focused on the representation of the working force and has a similar focus today. Their economic policies tend to focus on government assistance and control over government institutions. Labor talks of increasing taxes in order to help fund government institutions (eg. fund welfare payments) as well as changing the restrictions which the Liberals placed on penalty rates. Labor is seen to represent the blue collar with many Australian Labor members coming from backgrounds in the trade unions that in turn represent workers.

Some of Labor’s current policies currently include:
-Save Medicare
-Protect Tafe
-Protect penalty rates
-Protect the ABC and SBS
These and many more are outlined on their website. 

Liberals
The Liberal Party tends to promote individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism, a policy which is based on the idea that governments and the law should not interfere with business, finance, or the conditions of people’s working lives. They essentially de-regulate government institutions. An example of this is their plan to privatise Medicare. Liberals like to reduce taxes, especially for small businesses, to promote economic growth and bring less burden to individuals.

Some of the issues currently being tackled by the Liberal government are:
-A stronger economy, more jobs.
-Backing small business
-Lower power prices
-Standing up to union thuggery
Again, explanations of these issues and more are listed on their website. 

Nationals
The Nationals represent rural Australia and tend to focus on Australia’s regional communities. The majority of the National seats are won in rural electorates as their priority is giving a voice to these regions.

Their policies currently include:
-Relief for household pressures;
-Secure local jobs and better wages;
-Quality local healthcare and education choices;
-Local roads, transport & infrastructure that works;
-Safer local communities;
-Defending our local way of life for future generations.
The party goes into more detail on their website. 

 

This barely scratches the surface of what these parties stand for and what they plan to do with Australia in the future. But hopefully this gives you a start on finding out what party you most align with. If the election is something you are now excited about and you’d like your coverage brought to you by student journalists head to The Junction for coverage in the lead up to and on the night of the election. Happy voting!

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About the Writer
Holly Edwards-Smith, Reporter

There are many phrases which could be used to describe Holly; pizza snob, Disney fanatic and professional napper. However the most relevant to her work...

Quality journalism by ECU students
Where should your vote go?